Freeport, Illinois — There just aren’t too many other exciting things in high school than the thought of going to prom. Being asked to prom by the man of your high school dreams, or having that girl you lay awake at night dreaming about say yes, is an exciting time not matched by much else throughout your high school years.
But not everyone is so lucky to be asked to prom by their dream girl or boy. Asking (or being asked), is only half the battle anyway.
The other person has to say yes and the stress and worry that can come from all that, is often too much to bear.
This year at Freeport High School that all changed for one lucky boy and girl however. The story that follows is quite possibly the most touching local story we’ve heard of in decades.
Abby Smith said she met Tanner during school lunch last year. Tanner is a delightful young man in high school with down syndrome. Abby told us since her and Tanner met, she has sat by him during lunch every single day since then.
In a Facebook post, Tanner’s mother said about Abby “I absolutely can not say enough about Abby. She is the most caring and thoughtful person you could meet”.
After what we just witnessed, we’d be hard pressed to deny that even if we wanted to.
See, Tanner has always had a crush on Abby.
While Abby does have boyfriend, Abby told us that ever since she has sat by Tanner during lunch, she’s become one of Tanner’s “girlfriends”. They even go on special dates together, with the most recent being out to eat at Pizza Hut.
Tanner wanted to go to prom though. Finding a date however wasn’t go to be easy. So some friends and family of Tanner’s got together and helped him make up a little sign.
With Tanner, they set the stage for Tanner’s big moment. The moment, he would ask his ‘girl’ to prom.
In a short little video clip that captured the moment as it happened, Abby is seen walking down the halls of Freeport High School on her way to see what Tanner was up to.
When she approached him, well, that’s when Tanner made his move that changed the little city of Freeport in a really huge way.
“Going to prom was something Tanner has always looked forward to doing” Abby told us when we spoke with her. “Tanner is such a sweetheart”.
Abby said that finding a date was really important and it appears by the outcome, Tanner had all the right moves too.
After Tanner asked Abby if he could steal her heart for prom, Abby didn’t even have to think of what her answer would be.
She immediately said yes. Tanner’s Mom Melissa couldn’t be more proud of her son, or Abby either.
“My little man is going to prom with his best friend in the whole world”, she said. Her thoughts of Abby couldn’t be more heartwarming or insightful of the real human spirit, we should all strive for either.
“She is a definite role model for every teenager out there”, Melissa wrote.
“She is always there for Tanner and loves him at his best and even at his worst! She helps him with school work, she takes him to church, she goes on tons of “lunch dates” with him and answers the phone every single time he calls her.”
And apparently, he calls her a lot too.
Despite the fame however that their story has brought to them, Abby’s humble kindness hasn’t left her side one bit either.
When we asked how she feels about the number of views their video received and how the community has reacted to her loving gesture, Abby simply said, “this is nothing for popularity. It’s all for my boy”.
And there it is again isn’t it. The heart of people. Humanity, the way it’s meant to be.
It’s when size and color and social differences never muddy the waters in a relationship with those around us. It’s when people see the heart of others, not the glasses they wear or the braces on their teeth.
It’s when physical deficiencies play no part in friendships, love or the basic respect of another person’s life. We all deserve that from the people we meet. Yet as we all know too well, humanity hasn’t quite learned that valuable lesson yet.
Today however, in our city of Freeport one young girl and her best friend Tanner showed us how humanity should be. They showed us that at the end of the day we are all the same creatures and we all deserve to be noticed, cared for, appreciated and loved.
So while sure, two young high school kids are going to prom this year (and for that we are very happy), this isn’t really about the prom is it. It’s about us.
It’s about each of us and it stands as a lesson to us all, taught by the innocence of youthful humility.
Youth that has no blinders, no preconceived notions and a youth and innocence of acceptance. Accepting people for who they are and for who God made them to be.
Words better said, by quoting Tanner’s Mom.
A Mom so happy for her son, and even happier that her son found true friendship from the girl, who in his eyes, is out of this world. “I could type on and on forever about all of the qualities that she has” said Tanners Mom about Abby.
“But most of all, she loves Tanner for who he is.”
That right there says it all.
And so it seems we could all learn a lot from Abby and Tanner. A lesson the entire city; the entire nation can learn. Abby and Tanner set the stage and now, it’s up to us to follow suit. Afterall, we can’t let a couple of high schoolers show us up anyway, can we? So let’s love each other for who we are Freeport.
To Abby, you’re a truly wonderful example of a piece inside all of us that needs to shine as bright as yours and for you Tanner, you go rock that prom like you’re the biggest star in the city. Because in our eyes, that’s exactly what you are.
Here’s to your biggest date ever you two. May it be everything and more you ever dreamed it could be.